happy woman eating strawberries on summer beachEating. It's essential to our survival and yet it's also social. And enjoyable. So, sometimes we tend to fall into the trap of eating when it's not entirely necessary. Perhaps we're at a social engagement and we feel that it's expected or polite. Or, perhaps we just love the taste of something and decide to go back for one more helping even when we know we are full. Maybe we're at home and feel that we crave comfort and reach for our food. Whatever the case, the reality is that we often eat when it's not entirely necessary for our physical well-being.

The reality is that mindless eating is quite common. According to the American Psychological Association, this year 38% of adults say that they have overeaten or eaten unhealthy foods in the past month because of stress. And, the USDA Economic Research Service found some startling trends when it comes to dietary choices. As far as U.S. Food Consumption as a % of calories, just 12% constituted plant-based food, 25% animal food and a whopping 63% made up processed foods.

That's a pretty concerning trend considering that processed foods are laden with preservatives, hidden calories and a host of ingredients that are difficult to pronounce, let alone digest.

This is where the idea of mindful eating comes into play. This approach has less to do with what you are eating and more to do with how you approach eating. It is the act of intentionally paying attention to your food, moment by moment.

Most diets tend to focus on rules, restrictions or cutting calories with a specific outcome in mind. Mindful eating on the other hand has the simple goal of bringing the focus back to the act of eating and how the food not only nourishes your body but the sensory experience you're privileged to enjoy as you eat. And, as a side note, many people who practice mindful eating tend to lose weight and begin selecting more healthy foods. It's a happy (and healthy) consequence of taking time to be intentional about food. In the simplest terms, diets are generally outcome-oriented while mindful eating is all about enjoying the journey.

There are a variety of methods to begin practicing mindful eating, but essentially it helps to simply be aware of what mindful eating is NOT. MindLESS eating, involves eating past the point of feeling full, eating based on emotional cues, eating alone and at random times and places or while multi-tasking and eating foods that are emotionally comforting. On the other hand, mindFUL eating is about listening to your body and stopping when you're full, eating with others and at set times and places (and not completing other tasks while eating) and eating nutrition-rich foods.

If you choose to practice mindful eating, here are a few simple steps to get started. Remember to enjoy the journey!

  1. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly
  2. Remove distractions
  3. Stop eating when you are full

Remember to enjoy the journey!

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